Hawks arrest ANC heads for Madiba funeral fraud

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By BONGANI FUZILE, RAY HARTLE and MPHUMZI ZUZILE

THE ruling ANC was reeling in embarrassment last night after its top echelon in Buffalo City Metro (BCM) was arrested and charged with money laundering and fraud.

>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTDJNrbx8y8

Those arrested yesterday include BCM’s executive mayor Zukiswa Ncitha, deputy mayor Temba Tinta, council speaker Luleka Simon-Ndzele, the ANC’s regional secretary, Pumlani Mkolo, and a senior councillor, Sindiswa Gomba.

The allegations they face relate to money meant for Nelson Mandela memorial services illegally being paid for other purposes.

Some R5.9-million was allegedly paid by BCM to local taxi boss Mzwandile Sokwali’s company Victory Ticket cc to ferry mourners to memorial services around the city after Mandela’s death in December.

Relatively small numbers of mourners were seen at the services owing to heavy rains at the time.

The arrests follow a two-month investigation by the police’s special investigations unit, the Hawks, and those arrested handed themselves over to the elite police unit after being instructed to do so yesterday morning.

Ncitha cut short her participation in a government lekgotla at a beachfront hotel – an important meeting ahead of the provincial state of the province address by premier Phumulo Masualle on Friday.

The magistrate’s courts were abuzz throughout the day with anticipation of the appearance of the political heavyweights, with confirmation they would appear at 2pm.

Shortly after the lunch break, security guards started allowing people into the public gallery of A court.

The mayor was the first to appear from the cells below with a slightly bemused expression on her face and wearing a business outfit.

Mkolo, whose name has been linked to the Mandela memorial scandal funds from the outset, wore a broad smile and chuckled as he chatted to co-accused.

The brief hearing eventually got underway after 3pm, after negotiations between prosecutors and lawyers.

Ketani was adamant he wanted bail set at R100000 for each accused, but the lawyers argued that it was excessive and tantamount to refusing bail altogether.

Acting magistrate Leon Kemp was concerned that any delays in finalising the hearing beyond the end of the business day would make bail meaningless because there would be no officials in the clerk of the court’s office to process the payments.

He eventually set bail at R10000 for each new accused, except for Vazi, whose bail was set at R5000.

Hawks spokesman Paul Ramaloko said more arrests could be expected as the investigation progressed.

Ramaloko said all those implicated in the Mandela memorial investigation would be arrested and would appear in court.

Andre Schoombee, Fanoe's lawyer, said his client was not informed to appear in court while Nkuhlu also claimed to be in the dark about the court case.

In granting bail, Kemp said the accused should not interfere with anybody on the list of witnesses.

He also ordered that they inform the investigating officer timeously of their intention to travel abroad.

Sokwali and Boti, had their conditions relaxed so that they no longer have to report at the local police station.

The next court appearance is September 1 this year.

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